Howard Zinn, MUN, & The Future of Education

Posted by on Apr 26, 2013 in Blog, Current Events, ModelUN, MUN, MUN-E | Comments Off on Howard Zinn, MUN, & The Future of Education

Howard Zinn, MUN, & The Future of Education

After spending weeks thinking about the presentation and education panel I would be leading at ChoMUN, I found a new perspective on our current systems. The group at the Da Vinci Institute had a great deal of experience in “Futurist” thought. In the first few paragraphs of their treatise on the future of education, they cite the inefficiency of systems as they exist today. It is a distant past, but before I continue I want to explain their first reference to an inefficient system that hindered progress in the ancient world: the Roman Number system. It is accepted by most mathematics historians (yes, they exist) that the progress of the Greeks ground to a complete halt when the Romans asserted their grip over most of Europe and the Mediterranean coastline. Writing a number in Roman numerals is an addition and subtraction equation in itself! Think about the number MDCCCXLIV = 1844. Imagine trying to do bookkeeping and data entry with this system. Imagine division problems… never mind exponents and decimals!! Now go a step further and imagine how engineering and finance must’ve been held back by this inefficient numerical system. In our country today, we have developed a tax code that is now 64,000 pages long. We have so many laws that most lawyers believe they are uncountable. Another system that is becoming utterly decrepit is the education system. Each of us were born with the natural proclivity towards learning (we witness, we crawl, we walk, we speak, we write, we develop language and vocabulary…) yet by the time we’ve reached adolescence, most students grow sick of the tedium of grades, papers, exams, standardized tests, rigid classrooms, and they question the “reasons” for knowing math or history. Something has gone wrong with our current investments, and our future deserves a fresh perspective. Students deserve to be inspired and teachers deserve inspired students. Our system has been slow to adapt to the revolution of the internet. The academics who are revealing a renaissance of education research are slow to push their discoveries into the classroom. The local public education districts are so oppressed by budgetary constraints that they struggle more with balance sheets, completely losing sight of advantageous reform. As a graduate student in the most quantitative field that currently exists in education (An outline of a program in psychometrics), I am a first-hand witness of the trench that lies between the practices of policy makers and educational researchers. When imagining the future of education, we must make room for the creativity of learners to pursue their interests and motivations. The extent of subject matter that can be learned has become so vast, each with a depth unrivaled in any historical context. When we restrict each student to read a subset of classical novels, whitewashed interpretations of history, and terse outlines of science, we dull the beauty and richness of the human experience. Then we take it a step further and force today’s students to bubble in dots for more than two weeks of the school year, instigating anxieties and insecurities that negate the confidence building activities that should be...

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No more Powerpoint! Visualize!!

Posted by on Mar 15, 2013 in Blog, Current Events, Lessons, Social Skills | Comments Off on No more Powerpoint! Visualize!!

No more Powerpoint! Visualize!!

In today’s world, we’ve got lots of information to give our audience… whether it’s in school, business, science, or a crisis. But with so much information and only so little time to talk, how can we transmit this wealth of data to our audience? Can we do it better? Faster? And another question that you might not think of: Can we make our information pretty?? More easy on the eye? On Wednesday I went to see the world’s foremost expert on visualizing data. His name is Edward Tufte, he teaches at Yale, and he’s one of the best known statistical experts on the planet. Some might even say that he’s one of the most socially intelligent people on the planet. He is an incredible teacher who has been contracted to teach audiences complex ideas, design instructional content, and create beautiful infographics. Tufte’s seminar was six hours long. If there’s one point that I would take away from the talk, it was the need to give as much information to your audience with the highest resolution in the most efficient manner possible. In other words, ditch the powerpoint. (yes, even the CEO of Microsoft thinks the format has already become archaic) Simple instructions and data should be exactly that… SIMPLE. For example, here’s a beautiful little graphic that shows a baseball player how to pitch! They use words and sentences instead of bullet points (contrasting with powerpoint). The eye is naturally drawn to the top left of a page. It usually scans downward first, then to the right of the page. Websites are designed this way, tables of contents are designed this way, and you should design your graphics to do this, too. Tufte constantly came back to great webpages that have so much accessible content in such a small space… for example, Google News, National Weather Service, and even ESPN.com’s recap of games like the SuperBowl and World Series and how baseball box scores may be one of the greatest data tables ever created. Click on those pages and take a look at the huge amount of data that comfortably hits your eyes. It’s like they’ve predicted every question you could have thought of. Have a talk to give to an audience? When you have a powerpoint, some people in the room may really care about what’s on slide 7, and others may be looking forward to slide 21. How long are you going to make them wait to get to that information? Here’s Tufte’s suggestion: Design a FLAT surface (not a decked, hierarchical one like powerpoint) and put all of the information for your powerpoint on that piece of paper with nice, informative, simple graphics… feature the graphs and images that are important and use SENTENCES to describe them, NOT Bullet points. Print a copy of that piece of paper for everyone in your audience. When your presentation begins, give them that piece of large paper so that THEY CAN CHOOSE what they think is the most important, interesting part of your presentation. Give them about 8 minutes to read through your work. Now take the two or...

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Big Q’s for the next generation?

Posted by on Aug 19, 2012 in Current Events, Friends of MUN-E, ModelUN, MUN, MUN Debate Topics | 320 comments

Big Q’s for the next generation?

This is a very serious question and we can guarantee that no one around you will have a good answer… Which presidential candidate has a plan on any issue that addresses the lifelong needs of the age group that is not even in college yet, namely “children?” Inflation has been increasing faster than at any point in history. Programs like Social Security & Medicare are scheduled to be dilapidated by the time today’s children hit their 30’s. College costs are rising so quickly that students are being advised that college loans will result in costs that are equivalent to a mortgage. Updates of our country’s infrastructure are estimated to cost trillions of dollars, public schools are losing employees faster than at anytime in history, and unemployment is at an all-time high for 18-30 year olds and is NOT getting better. Today’s 20-35 year old group is making less than their parents did and this trend is on pace to turn out worse for today’s children. War has been in the news every single day of a 10 year old’s life. Technology is changing so quickly that laws, economics, education, medicine, and PEOPLE can’t keep up. This is happening WHILE THE COUNTRY IS ON A TEN YEAR TREND OF CUTTING INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION and while our nation’s scores are declining relative to the rest of the world. We need kids to ask these questions to the rest of the nation! The problems in our country are only becoming MORE detrimental to the future generation in the United States. The solutions to these problems are also going to rest on their shoulders more than any generation before them. We personally believe that the students who read this and realize their situation are going to be better prepared to change the world for their generation and themselves… And you MUNners who are practicing the skills that will be needed to change the politics of our nation for the benefit of everyone, we are here because we want to help. The future used to be a bright horizon that inspired beautiful movies and classic poems. The world NEEDS YOU to ask questions about YOUR FUTURE. We need you. And we wish you the best of luck in preparing for the future… But unlike the loud mouth figureheads and misguided voters & media, we promise to help you. And don’t be afraid let us know how we can help you even more… Learn to be one of the trendsetters in the future: Get MUN-E! Free membership to The MUNIVERSITY comes with your book!...

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MUN SPECIAL TOPIC: Guns, Guns, and more *scary* Guns…

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 in Blog, Current Events, Friends of MUN-E, MUN Debate Topics | 309 comments

MUN SPECIAL TOPIC: Guns, Guns, and more *scary* Guns…

In the past month, the United States has now been averaging about one domestic terrorist shooting per week.   Some basic statistics comparing the United States with European countries: Only Estonia(8.07) and Northern Ireland(5.24) have murder rates greater than the United States (4.14). Slovakia checks in next at half of our homicide rate, 2.17. Extrapolating that rate to the size of our population gives a number of 12,400 homicides by firearms per year which easily dwarfs the number of homicides in the smaller countries of the EU (The extra 20,000 deaths are suicides or accidental!!). It is estimated by the ATF that of the approximate 3,000 crimes committed with firearms per day in the US, 80% of the criminals are using ILLEGAL guns. The BATF approximates that 4.9 million guns are sold to Americans each year, while only 100,000 are confiscated and destroyed. The US has approximately 89 guns per 100 residents, doubling the EU’s most prolific gun owners (Switzerland – 45), followed by Finland (32), Sweden (32), Norway (31), France (31) & Austria (30). Canada also checks in at 31. Comparing homicide rates of these same countries we have the US (4.14), Switzerland (0.58), Finland (0.86), Sweden (0.18), Norway (0.3), France (0.44), Austria (0.42), & Canada (0.76). What are your reactions to these numbers? What sort of arguments would you be able to make at upcoming conferences with this information? Do you have other evidence that supports a need for gun...

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Our Promo Video!

Posted by on Aug 10, 2012 in Blog, Current Events, MUN-E, Our Website, Updates | 548 comments

Our Promo Video!

So, after fighting with software and teaching ourselves Sony Vegas in 3 hours, this is our first promo video! One minute and 38 seconds made in 4 hours… LoL. Make sure you share it with your peeps!

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Special MUN Topic: Security Concerns @ the London Games?

Posted by on Jul 30, 2012 in Current Events, Friends of MUN-E, ModelUN, MUN Debate Topics | 501 comments

Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, terrorism has become a global threat that effects every nation around the world. Now more than ever this issue has surfaced as a topic of debate with the start of the 30th Olympic Games hosted in London. Much of the world has focused its attention on the security present at this historic event and the United Kingdoms ability to protect the millions of visitors that will be traveling to London to watch the Olympic Games. The Olympics are no stranger to terrorism in the past however. In 1972 the Munich Games were home to one of the worst tragedies in Olympic history when eight Arab terrorists stormed an apartment housing Israeli athletes. Two athletes were killed in the initial struggle and nine more were taken hostage. This horrible tragedy concluded with a vicious shoot out between German sharpshooters and the terrorists resulting in the death of all nine of the Israeli hostages. Luckily there have been no issues of that magnitude at the London Games as of yet. Other than the G4S security agency’s failure to provide the contracted 10,400 security officials for the event and a lost set of keys to Wembly Stadium, the Olympic Games have continued with relatively no interruptions. An increased military presence hopes to deter any potential terrorist threats and both issues were quickly corrected due to excellent contingency planning by the organizers of the London Games. It’s still early but we would like to get your opinion on security at the Olymipic Games…. Share your thoughts on this issue...

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